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Stories & Facts

What One Must Do
by Juliet Grames

Presenting lighthearted new fiction

Zarg, all powerful and extremely wise sorcerer, is poised precariously on a jagged cliff face. The deep canyon floor beneath his feet rumbles with the need for water. Zarg has been dwelling in the realms of the humans for nine hundred and seventy-three summers, and he knows what is wrong. The gods have been angered.

Zarg feels the weight of the wind ready to push him over the mountain top and carefully readjusts his heavy blood-colored robes so they are no longer draping over the precipice. The gods have been angered--something has made them extremely unhappy. Zarg realizes it is his job to save the world. He is willing to pay whatever consequences he must to restore order and balance to nature. He is a brave and noble fellow, indeed.

It has become apparent to Zarg that in order to please the gods, he must impress them. He is now preparing his most powerful spell, that of a lightning dancer. He must call down the lightning to the mountain top and dance in it. If the gods are pleased with the display, they will offer the blessed precipitation the earth has been crying for.

Zarg extends his arms, and his silver zodiac embroidered sleeves fall back to his elbows, exposing his wizened skin. He flicks his wrist and his ethereal glass lightning-calling wand appears in his palm. He closes his eyes, rises on his toes, and prepares to dance-

* "Nicole, what on the good earth are you doing in your father's bathrobe on the railing of the deck like that? Come down here at once, young lady, before you end up falling off and killing yourself! Right now, I said. Have some common sense for a change. Is that your good ballet costume? Don't you need that for the recital this year? It is absolutely freezing out here! The middle of December and she comes outside in a leotard and a bathrobe! And MY old toe shoes?!?! Where do you come up with these foolish ideas? Honestly. No more outside for you. You stay inside where you can't hurt yourself and play with your toys like normal children do. And don't scowl at me like that. You need to learn to act your age. Now in the house!"*

Zorna, vicious and highly lethal witch of black magic extraordinaire, rushes about moodily in the dank recesses of her dungeon. Being held prisoner here by the foolish mortals, she has been forced to bring her beautiful magic to a temporary stand-still. As she stalks about her prison, attempting to come up with the correct ingredients to cast the potent weather-altering spell she had been striving to complete when her work had been silenced, she reflects hatefully upon the party responsible for this whole mess. The evil Queen Momarthia simply does not understand the vital importance to the fate of earth that Zorna's magic contains.

Not a single flake has fallen out of the sky for months, and if someone doesn't do something soon, the earth will deteriorate beneath the humans' feet. And although she was working for nothing but the good of the earth, the evil Queen Momarthia accuses her of witchcraft and has her locked away! And even if Zorna was doing witchcraft, it wasn't bad witchcraft.

Aha! Finally! Zorna locates a disused and disintegrating cauldron in the shadowy, cobweb-infested corner of the dungeon. Perfect! Everyone knows witches need cauldrons to do magic. And the location can't be better. Cobwebs all around mean spiders, and spiders' legs are a key ingredient in this spell. Zogs! Not only that, but the cauldron is exactly under the crack in the ceiling that has let in a few stray drops of rain water. Over the years, it has amounted to quite a puddle, and the pot has easily enough water in it so all Zorna has to do is light the fire underneath and throw in the magic ingredients! Zorna is so happy that for a moment she can't help but do a wild voodoo dance.

Coming back into possession of her senses, Zorna begins scuttling about the dungeon, making a pile in the center of the lair of the secret ingredients she had been stashing in corners until a time came when they could be used. Now is that time.

Ready to brew her potion, Zorna realizes she is not allowed to light a fire in the house-uh, dungeon-unless it is in the fireplace. Galloping grasshoppers, she does not need another set-back. She sets her jaw and determines that she is left with no choice but to make the potion cold.

Dancing around the cauldron as she throws in a handful of this and a pinch of that, extremely dangerous master of black magic Zorna the witch cries at the top of her lungs, "Ah-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yeeeeee! Ah-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yoooooo!" Into the brew goes a box of bat eyes cold cereal. "Katchee-kootchee-ketchee-keee!" A frog leg butter and ginger root jam sandwich on moldy green bread. "Filly-illy-dargy-wargy-parfy-schmarfy-teee!" Demon hair spaghetti and barbecue-flavor fungus chips. "Itchy-scratchy-nichy-"

Zogs! Zorna has tripped over an open jug of bat juice while singing her chant. Evil Queen Momarthia will not be happy about this. Zorna makes a quick attempt to mop up the mess before the evil queen should come down the dungeon stairs with the dirty laundry she is even now loading into the basket. Jumping giraffes! In the process, Zorna has now accidentally upset not only her entire cauldron of beautiful potion but also her vat of rat-eye casserole left over from last night's dinner that the evil Queen Momarthia had tried to stuff down her throat!

The mess is beginning to creep under the evil Queen Momarthia's washing machine contraption. What shall Zorna do? And here comes the Queen now, doubtlessly to punish Zorna for her black magic. How will her weather potion to call down snow from the great sky ever work if the evil Queen Momarthia continues to inhibit her progress?

* "Nicole? Are you down there? I sure hope you haven't gone outside after I told you- Eep! Who made this mess? Nicole, what did you do, take every bit of food out of the refrigerator and throw it on the floor? What would your father. . .And there's my tuna-fish casserole, all over the kitchen! Who do you expect to clean this, young lady? Don't you dare try to hide from me! Come out right now! If I have to come and find you, you are in very serious trouble. Now! Ah, so there you are. Don't think I don't see you, behind the dryer. The end of that witch cape is sticking out, missee. Come out here now, before I have to carry you by the scruff of the neck. What do you have to say for yourself? What possessed you to throw every edible thing in the house on the floor like this? No, you know what? I don't want to hear it. And if I make you clean it, you will just make a bigger mess. Go straight up to your room, right now, and I don't want to see head or foot from you until supper! Got it? Now march!"*

Confound it! The shockingly beautiful and apparently harmless princess of Zandor palace has been captured by the cruel and merciless dragon Momaug and is now being held prisoner in the turret of a secluded castle in the middle of a barren wasteland filled with crude and unsanitary beasts of every sort that will attack the unwary passer-by. She paces restlessly across the tower's small confines, awaiting rescue by a gallant prince or maybe she'd settle for a knight or even a giant to carry her off to another castle would do right now. At least from there she would be able to send word for further aid. If she is not free, she can not use her sapphire starlet pendant (she left it at Zandor castle because you can't expect a shockingly beautiful and apparently harmless princess to remember everything, especially while being captured) to restore the precipitation and save the world. The Zandor castle magician would never be able to find it in the mess in her room to do the spell himself. She must be rescued. Is there no one left alive from the merciless dragon Momaug's desolation to come and save her?

Well, the princess need not despair! For the truth which nobody knows is that in the most dire times of need the shockingly beautiful and apparently harmless princess of Zandor castle becomes. . . .dun da ra dun! Zanthia, fierce and fearless warrior princess of exalted caliber, provider of peace and protector of the people! Zanthia knows that if only she could somehow put an end to the merciless dragon Momaug's iron reign across the land, the snows would return once more to the realms of earth. If only she knew how.

Zanthia contemplates the problem. She could dash out the doorway and stick a sword in the merciless dragon Momaug's evil stomach, but it is doubtful that the flimsy sword, so potent on human flesh, would be able to penetrate the merciless dragon Momaug's thick and scaly hide, and then the merciless dragon would probably ground her for life.

Aha! A solution to Zanthia's pressing problem! Perhaps the snows can be brought to the land in a way besides killing the dragon. If she could somehow come into possession of the Magic Gem of Weather that the dragon has hidden somewhere in her hoard and climb to the top of the highest turret where the weather Gods would see it, she could manipulate the clouds back into their correct formations they should be in at this time of year and bring snow down upon the thirsty land. A valiant plan, indeed.

Clothed all in gray, face scrubbed with ashes and wearing soft broken gray leather boots that make no noise when you walk (to blend in with the castle walls should the merciless dragon Momaug come), Zanthia, fierce and fabled warrior princess of exalted caliber, protector of peace and demise-er of dragons, creeps stealthily along the palace walls, silent as a shadow and quick as a sprite. Zanthia has no idea where the weather calling crystal might be, or even what it looks like, but she has heard stories and knows she will be sure when she finds it; she bravely continues her search through enemy territory until she can find her prize.

Zanthia finds herself in the heart of the merciless dragon Momaug's personal chamber. In the dank solitude of the room, human skeletons litter the cobbled floors and the very silence of the room seems to gnaw at Zanthia's bones. Piles of gems and bolts of silk from villages the dragon has pillaged lie about helter-skelter on the dusty floor. Zanthia wonders idly exactly how long ago the merciless dragon Momaug ate her last cleaning maid; based on the odor, at least four hundred years.

Here, somewhere, lies buried the Magic Gem of Weather that will save the world. The merciless dragon Momaug undoubtedly keeps it safely hidden because she is afraid some wise and unappreciated super hero such as Zanthia, fierce and fabled warrior princess of exalted caliber, might find it and save the world or something.

Zanthia begins patiently picking through the debris to find the stone. Finally, she comes across what would appear to the average human's eye to be a normal green glass vase, but Zanthia knows better. She feels there is something strange about it, a kind of magical quality that makes it different from other gems. She has found her treasure.

Quick as lightning, Zanthia is back in her turret without a backward glance to the lair. She wipes the gray off her face, slides out of her chameleon outfit, and is now wearing her brightly-colored skin-tight could-pass-for-pajamas-if-it-had-to super-hero warrior princess costume.

The next enigma: how to get to the top of the turret without alerting the merciless dragon Momaug of her escape. The tower window! Perfect for all her travel needs! Zanthia decides to make a lasso out of knotted together draperies from the various assortments that are enclosed in the dresser drawers of her tiny prison and encircle it around the domineering crystal spire on the roof.

In no time at all Zanthia has a coil of rope made. Throwing open the tower with only a little bit of difficulty (the merciless dragon Dadaug had already calked it for the approaching winter with cement of the strongest kind that made a seal any super hero would have to tug at to break), fierce and fearless warrior princess Zanthia accidentally trips over a pile of clean clothes she had forgotten to put away despite the merciless dragon Momaug's insistence and sticks her arm up to her elbow through the screen on the tower window. Oh no! Merciless dragon Momaug will be simply infuriated! Oh, well. It is all to the good of her earth-saving quest.

Fearless warrior princess Zanthia does not hesitate in punching out the rest of the screen. Looping her lasso, she throws it up towards the silver antennae-ahem, spire-on the roof. After eighty-three and a half futile tries, she finally loops the spire and is able to tighten the rope enough to climb to the top of the turret. Anyone less petite would have broken the rope, but Zanthia is light as a feather, tough as leather, and repairing the weather!

Zanthia is now on top of the roof, cloak flapping, dramatically defiant, against the wind. The Gem has been safely brought to the attention of the weather gods! Zanthia must secure it somewhere on the roof where it will never fall or break, so normal weather will continue forever. She surveys the terrain. The tower is relatively unhazardous to an adventurer as experienced as herself. She should not have too much trouble reaching her destination of the castle chimney, where she has glimpsed a crack just the right size for the Gem, as there are no treacherous landscapes or hostile creatures dwelling up here, although the wind is strong and the surface slightly slanted.

Zanthia heads towards her goal. Even though the wind pummels powerfully against Zanthia's back and threatens to send her plummeting to her doom, she continues faithfully with her quest because she is well aware of the fact that thousands of people, especially under the age of eighteen, are depending on her to make it snow all night. The fate of the world lies in her hands.

Quickly she twists the vase into position. It is stable and will never topple. From here on in, the world can depend on natural weather, as all the evil of the dragon's wasting that chased away the snow in the first place has been put to an end! The world is saved! Zanthia takes a moment to spread her arms in triumph as the world applauds. Gee, it's cold up here.

Leaping llamas! The wind has blown Zanthia's rope until it unknotted and fell to the ground! Zanthia is trapped on the tower roof. How will she get down? Her only choice is to bang on the shingles beneath her feet and alert the merciless dragon Momaug of her presence on the roof! Ee gads! Condemning herself to a lifetime or at least a week of grounding inside the house under the penetrating and evil eye of the merciless dragon Momaug! Impossible! There has to be a better way! And Zanthia, fierce and fabled warrior princess of exalted caliber, provider of peace and protector of the people, always finds a way!

Yes! And an idea has come to her! The tree branches extend to precisely four point eight three feet away from the roof top. An expert tree climber, Zanthia need only grab the branch and shinny down the tree. Victory for the entire world and for Zanthia!

Zanthia steps back a little in preparation, takes two long brisk running steps, and leaps! Time slows as she seems to hang in the air, just like in the movies, left toes and arms outstretched and right foot trailing behind her, waiting to feel the bark of the tree against her skin. Just when Zanthia is becoming worried that she did not jump far enough, her arms wrap around the tree branch. The rest of the way is a clear shot.

Dropping neatly out of the tree, Zanthia eyes distastefully the bark scrapes that mar her hands. After a full day of adventuring, she could have much worse.

Suddenly, coming out of her bath of victory, Zanthia remembers the merciless dragon Momaug. She gasps in terror and quickly runs through the castle's large front door. She is about to turn and run up the stairs back to her dungeon so the dragon would learn nothing of her quest when alas! She comes face to face with none other but the merciless dragon Momaug herself! Cowering under the dragon's wicked eyes, Zanthia hears the dragon snarl,

* "Oh, there you are, Nicole. I went up to your room to apologize for being so impatient with you earlier, but you weren't there. I realize it was an accident and you tried to clean it up, but I was on short temper because of the baby's crying. Okay? You want some cookies? I made them for my class tomorrow, but since you have been so quiet upstairs, you can have some. Hey, look how hard it's snowing! At this rate, there won't be any school tomorrow!"*

Nicole, eight-year-old wizard, witch, and warrior princess in disguise, smiled wickedly as she munches on piping hot chocolate chip cookies. Another world saved, another day's duty well done, and still no one knows her true identity, just like with the real super heros. Children all over the world will be playing in the snow tomorrow instead of filling out workbooks and have her to thank for it! She congratulates herself on a job done neatly, without a trace of evidence to lead the public's eye to her.

* "Nicole, what happened to your window? And what is this huge hole in your screen? Your father's going to be furious!"*

Copyright © 1998 by Juliet Grames